Last edited 02 Apr 2023

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Institute of Historic Building Conservation Institute / association Website

Georgian Group Journal

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The Georgian Group produces the substantial annual Georgian Group Journal. The current issue (Vol XXX, 2022) runs to 222 pages. It has generally concentrated on detailed and well-illustrated analysis of specific 18th-century buildings, but the present edition commences with a paper by Alan Brodie, a senior investigator for the south-west region of Historic England, documenting Georgian sea bathing. Brodie poses the question: was this a battle between health and mirth?

He points out that the bathing in the sea that grew in popularity in the 18th century at sites around England’s coast had origins that were ostensibly medically inspired, in part by spas, and therefore doctors and non-medical people created a range of facilities to allow the sea and seawater to improve human health. However, bathing machines, bathhouses and bathing rooms increasingly became part of the seaside’s growing leisure and pleasure industry, incorporating entertainments alongside health facilities. The article examines the balance between health and pleasure, as is evident in written sources and in buildings.

Frank Salmon revisits the work of James Gibbs, preciously discussed in the 2019 Journal, looking at the design of the Senate House at Cambridge and examining the question of the extent of his involvement or that of others, such as John James of the Office of Works. The discussion of the complex provenance is beautifully illustrated with contemporary elevation drawings and plans reproduced in colour.

Pete Smith examines the surviving unique album of architectural drawings of Plumptre House in Nottingham. He observes that between 1650 and 1800 Nottingham was considered one of the most desirable places in England to live. The fine design by Colin Campbell is well illustrated and the history of the site is explained although, sadly, this fine building was demolished in 1859.

Other fine Georgian houses covered in this issue include Radburn Hall, Derbyshire; villas built between 1769 and 1845 on the Dart estuary in south-west England; the designs by John Nash for the Countess of Shannon, including good illustrations of the development of the Nash style (including Llanerchaeron in Wales; Luscombe Castle at Dawlish in Devon and Sandridge Park, near Stoke Gabriel, Devon). By interrogating a range of documentary evidence, Rebecca Tropp’s ongoing research throws into question the long-held assumptions that Nash’s designs for the Countess of Shannon must have been commissioned during the period of her widowhood.

Two articles deal with aspects of Georgian decoration. The first, by Fran Sands, examines Robert Adam’s work with 29 female patrons, based on eponymous drawings at the Sir John Soane Museum. The second, by Diane Barre, concentrates on the work of Elizabeth Hervey, a frequenter and guest in numerous country houses and a traveller in Europe. A wealthy and independent widow, Hervey bought a London house in 1792 and a country retreat in 1797. She furnished and decorated these in a fashionable but rather unusual way, designing decorative schemes which she painted herself. Barre’s account is based on Hervey’s published private journals.

Finally, Fenella Gentleman explores the development of Tredegar Square in Mile End Old Town. Although Pevsner described this as the most sophisticated piece of late Georgian planning in the east end, little else has previously been written about this important architectural set piece.

This article originally appeared in the Institute of Historic Building Conservation’s (IHBC’s) Context 174, published in December 2022.

--Institute of Historic Building Conservation

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